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Musician Kenny G performs on the waterfront stage at SunFest 99
Musician Kenny G performs on the waterfront stage at SunFest 99. Photo: C.J. Walker


Florida's largest music and art festival takes place annually in the spring along the waterfront in West Palm Beach. SunFest began in 1983 by a group of local volunteers who wanted to create a unique community celebration. They hoped the festival would become a signature event for the area and that it would extend the tourist season, thus improving the local economy. The festival has grown from attracting 135,000 attendees in 1984 to 315,000 people in 1999. During its five days in 1997, it generated an economic impact of $16 million, and room revenue of $1 million.

SunFest's musical programming history exemplifies artistic excellence by offering diverse styles, from jazz to pop, classic, new rock, R&B, reggae, gospel, country, world beat and folk. Artists, which are the main tourist draw for the festival, have included Santana, B.B. King, Spyro Gyra and Wayne Toups.

SunFest produces multiple events and cultural experiences throughout the year. By working cooperatively with other cultural organizations and corporate sponsors, SunFest projects promote artistic excellence, showcase Florida artists, and provide arts in education projects for under served populations. Sunfest has been involved in community outreach projects, such as: a project that allows talented teens a creative outlet to perform on stage and to produce a show; and a program that gives more than 1,200 children and adults with disabilities opportunities to showcase their achievements in the arts. SunFest's "Banner Project" is a collaborative arts initiative that pairs area nonprofit groups with local artists to create large scale paintings that are used as street banners.

During the festival's first two nights, SunFest's "Time to Care" Midway gives nonprofit organizations the chance to host games to raise money for their causes, and other fundraising opportunities.

Virtually every aspect of SunFest, from pouring soda to negotiating a contract with Kenny G, is organized by committees composed of volunteers. These individuals work almost year-round to ensure both the success of the event and fulfillment of the organization's community outreach missions. During the festival, more than 3,000 volunteers work three-to-four-hour shifts.

Documentation comprises a short review of the festival, a newspaper pull-out on the 1999 festival, the Sunfest '99 newsletter, the 1998 annual report, and promotional literature.

Originally submitted by: E. Clay Shaw, Jr., Representative (22nd District).

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The Local Legacies project provides a "snapshot" of American Culture as it was expressed in spring of 2000. Consequently, it is not being updated with new or revised information with the exception of "Related Website" links.

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